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Shaping the Future: The Update of Contra Costa County's General Plan

Shaping the Future: The Update of Contra Costa County's General Plan

AI wrote this blog post based on a transcript from the podcast, which contains errors; for the best content, listen to the podcast.




In a recent episode of the Capstone Conversation podcast, host Jared Asch delved into the comprehensive process of updating the General Plan for Contra Costa County, California. With insightful contributions from county planning staff Maureen Toms and Will Nelson, the discussion illuminated the complexities and aspirations of regional planning in a rapidly changing world.


Every city and county in California must have a general plan, often described as the constitution for local land use planning. Contra Costa County's plan, now over three decades old, is under review to address the evolving needs of its communities. As the principal planner, Will Nelson, highlighted, "It's your blueprint for development...all of your planning decisions...they all have to be consistent with your general plan."


The update process is far from insular. It involves extensive public engagement to ensure that the plan reflects the diverse voices of Contra Costa's residents. With over 140 meetings held, the planning team has made concerted efforts to reach disadvantaged or impacted communities, ensuring that their needs and aspirations are at the forefront of the plan.


Environmental justice, economic development, sustainability, and community health are among the core themes threaded throughout the new general plan. The plan aims to address the physical aspects of land use, rectify historical injustices, and create a more equitable and sustainable future for all residents.


For Maureen Toms, the Deputy Director, the vision of success is tangible: communities where residents feel safe and connected, with access to essential services like grocery stores, parks, and schools—all within walking distance.


The process for finalizing the general plan involves meticulous review and consideration of public feedback, underscoring the county's commitment to a transparent and inclusive planning process. As the deadline for public comments approaches, residents are encouraged to voice their thoughts, shaping the county's trajectory for the next two decades.


The general plan serves as a critical roadmap for envisioning Contra Costa County's future. It's a future that balances growth with preservation, innovation with tradition, and progress with equity, ensuring that when our children look back, they see a county that rose to meet the challenges of its time with foresight, compassion, and resilience.


The journey to update Contra Costa County's General Plan is a shared endeavor, and your voice matters. To learn more about


the plan, share your thoughts, or get involved, visit Envision Contra Costa 2040. Together, we can shape a future that reflects our collective hopes, dreams, and values.


This encapsulation retains the essence of the podcast discussion, focusing on the importance of the general plan update, the inclusive approach to community engagement, and the vision for Contra Costa County's future. It serves as both a summary and an invitation for readers to actively participate in the planning process.



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BELOW IS AN AI-GENERATED TRANSCRIPT OF THE PODCAST it has not been checked for errors.


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Jared Asch: Hey! Welcome to this episode of the capstone conversation. I'm your host, Jared Ash, today will be diving into Contra Costa County and their general plan which they are in the process of updating and looking for feedback today. So I'm joined by 2 guests.


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Jared Asch: The County Staff department, who are immersed in every detail of this, and we're gonna start by having them introduce themselves and then explain what is a general plan.


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Jared Asch: So.


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Maureen Toms, Contra Costa County: Maureen, would you like to introduce yourself first. Thank you, Jared. Thanks for the opportunity. I'm Maureen Tom's. I am the deputy director of the Department of Conservation Developments policy Planning division and


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Maureen Toms, Contra Costa County: and then I'll kick it over to Will.


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Will Nelson | Contra Costa County: Thanks, Maureen, and thank you, Jared. My name is Will Nelson. I'm a principal planner with the county. I manage the county's advance planning section and am the project manager for envision. Contra Costa


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Jared Asch: great. So I'll ask that


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Jared Asch: first question.


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Jared Asch: People know, like they get the concept of the general plan, but to find it? What is the general plan? And how is it used to guide county planning, going forward?


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Will Nelson | Contra Costa County: Well, a every city and county in California is required to have a general plan. And they're typically adopted on a 15 or 20 year basis. That's the planning horizon. And really it's your blueprint for development. Sometimes they're referred to as the constitution for local land use planning. And so all of your planning decisions. Your zoning subdivisions


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Will Nelson | Contra Costa County: use permits your zoning code itself. They all have to be consistent with your general plan, and it includes, a variety of topics required by the State things that people would normally associate with planning like land use transportation, housing, open space things of that nature.


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Jared Asch: And so it's supposed to be updated every 15 to 20 years. When was it last updated here in Contra Costa County?


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Will Nelson | Contra Costa County: Well, there, there's no actual state requirement. For when it's updated you have to update one element, the housing element on a schedule every 8 years. And then there are other elements that have to be updated at certain times, like they've tied him to the housing element. And that's more recent. But the county's general plan just celebrated its thirty-third birthday in January.


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Jared Asch: so 33 years ago, that puts it at 98,


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Will Nelson | Contra Costa County: 1991.


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Jared Asch: So before we all had email addresses


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Jared Asch: to put it in concept well before the iphone. Well, before we were all going to regular websites and things like that. So land use is not something that changes overnight. But just put that in perspective, like, Wow, it was before everybody had an email address.


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Maureen Toms, Contra Costa County: Yes, that's right, Jared. There have been amendments since 1991. Just not a whole sale update of the general plan.


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Jared Asch: Okay, so what are some of the components that go into the general plan?


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Will Nelson | Contra Costa County: There are.


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Will Nelson | Contra Costa County: There's several mandated elements, as I mentioned a second ago, so land use transportation housing, open space, etc. And you can also add elements. Your community can add elements


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Will Nelson | Contra Costa County: that pertain to planning. So in Contra Costa County we have a growth management ordinance, and that is linked to the half cent sales tax. We all pay that goes to Ccta. And then we also have a public facilities and services element. But you can organize these any way you want. You don't have to call them those names.


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Will Nelson | Contra Costa County: So we've done a little rearranging and reorganizing of our plan this time around. But so those those basic


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Will Nelson | Contra Costa County: kinda topic areas. And then the board of supervisors, when they when they directed us to update the plan also instructed us to weave 4 themes through it. And those are environmental justice, economic development, sustainability and community health and and of those for one of them. Environmental justice is is a state requirement.


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Jared Asch: And let's talk. The county plan


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Jared Asch: is is not impactful throughout right cause. There's the city divide and the counties. This works in unincorporated county. So what are some of the communities that would really be the most affected by this?


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Maureen Toms, Contra Costa County: Sure, we have some very large unincorporated communities in West Contra Costa County. We have North Richmond, East Richmond Heights, Rodeo, Crockett.


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Maureen Toms, Contra Costa County: There's a community known as Montera Bay, which includes Montalvin Manor, Terra Hills, and Bayview, and then west of Pittsburgh is Bay Point. That's by far our largest unincorporated community.


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Maureen Toms, Contra Costa County: Discovery Bay is also unincorporated, as is Bethel Island and a lot of the Ag. Areas in East County, and then Alamo and Diablo are also unincorporated


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Maureen Toms, Contra Costa County: the Pleasant Hill Bart station area that we refer to as Contra Costa Center is also unincorporated.


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Jared Asch: Yeah, I think most people don't even realize where it ends and begins, and I know in in Walnut Creek there's lots of even a couple of donuts


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Jared Asch: where you could be driving down the street. Go from city to the county, and then go back to the the city again.


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Jared Asch:  let's can we talk about that for a second? There's a history to that right, Maureen.


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Jared Asch: Why do those unincorporated areas exist like parts of Sarah Nap and Lafayette? Alamo, you mentioned Crockett?


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Maureen Toms, Contra Costa County: Sure. Historically. An area, you know, a city has a sphere of influence, so that when you know a property owner, when or when they wanna develop it, they might also apply to annex into a city


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Maureen Toms, Contra Costa County:  Laughco, which is the local agency formation.


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Maureen Toms, Contra Costa County: which oversees all of the special districts, and in unincorporate incorporation


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Maureen Toms, Contra Costa County: they're the ones that decide on whether or not something's going to be annexed. And sometimes it's sort of cherry picked. As far as you know, they're only gonna take a piece of of the unincorporated area and annex that into a city, and one's gonna be left behind.


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Maureen Toms, Contra Costa County: a lot of times that that happens. And then also, whenever


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Maureen Toms, Contra Costa County: there's an incorporation that's gonna happen is that there's a review of the tax income that is generated out of that area. So a city may not want to incorporated area unless they


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Maureen Toms, Contra Costa County: can provide the services in line with the tax revenue that they're gonna receive.


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Jared Asch: I think that's helpful to frame it so well, let's talk about the a couple of those key areas you mentioned were priorities for the Board of Supervisors.


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Jared Asch: health and health equity comes up a lot, particularly in some of those unincorporated areas. What are you?


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Jared Asch: What is the focus there? How does the general plan start talking about that.


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Will Nelson | Contra Costa County: So excuse me, the you know, the built environment affects something that I think a lot of people don't really think about, but built environment itself has a tremendous impact on our health, and I don't just mean what's coming out of a smokestack or something like that. But just the way we get around?


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Will Nelson | Contra Costa County: You know, if you have access to parks or not. What businesses actually exist in your community. So you know, in the unincorporated area. We have, for example, several communities, their food deserts, as we call them. There's no grocery store, and the only


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Will Nelson | Contra Costa County: the only place to get something to eat, really, in that community might be kind of a liquor store or a market that's selling, you know, who knows what's what's on the shelf.


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Will Nelson | Contra Costa County: But you know, just getting food is difficult, even in places like Discovery Bay, you know. For a long time they didn't have a grocery store, and people there had to drive, you know, all the way to Brentwood, and it was around, you know, 12 mile round trip, just to just to buy groceries. So one thing that we wanna do is make it easier through our land use regulations to be able to bring those sorts of businesses to areas that need them, you know. Cut the red tape, and when it comes to bringing in a market or grocery store


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Will Nelson | Contra Costa County: that kind of use, that kind of business that a community really needs. We're looking at our park system and our trails.


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Will Nelson | Contra Costa County: you know. And we're not in control of all of this. Yeah, the trails. A lot of them are built by the East Bay Regional Park district, for example. But so working with our partners, such as and the cities to that provide parts, you know, going back to the annexed Incorporated versus Unincorporated, you know. People cross lines all the time to go to a specific park. Or, you know, recreation facility. So we're gonna be looking at more partnerships trying to


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Will Nelson | Contra Costa County: provide recreational facilities to people who normally don't have access to them.


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Will Nelson | Contra Costa County: and then there's the medical facilities, you know. Obviously, the way our medical system works is that government doesn't provide all of it, or even most of it. And so if you look at, for example, a map of the county and the medical facilities, you see a high concentration kind of down the 6 80 corridor not that many in in


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Will Nelson | Contra Costa County: East Contra Costa, and really not that many in West contra Costa. So. You know, some of these things go beyond the general plan. Again, you know, partnering with with private sector or other agencies. But as far as we can help with the land use. You know, it'd be things like again cutting the red tape so it might be easier to open


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Will Nelson | Contra Costa County: a dental office or an urgent care facility or something like that in areas that need them.


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Jared Asch: So I wanna hit that point of of cutting red tape because it comes up in every economic development discussion.


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Jared Asch: This there's a lot to be said. Fremont and Vacaville are promising bigger companies, 90 day fast track approval permits for bringing their facilities there.


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Jared Asch: When you talk about cutting red tape.


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Jared Asch:  what do you envision? What is the permit process like? How are you streamlining as part of this county general plan.


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Will Nelson | Contra Costa County: Well, so the general plan was adopted in the early nineties. The zoning code was adopted in 1947,


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Will Nelson | Contra Costa County: and as also never really had a comprehensive overhaul.


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Will Nelson | Contra Costa County: And it's very interesting to look at our zoning. Ii kinda kid around with people. I say, if you wanna know what contracts county look like in the forties. Read our zoning code because you can do things by right, such as have a refinery or an explosives plant cause that's what was here. A single family zone, ha! Is allows for single family homes, and also crops and farming because you were transitioning at that time from farms to


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Will Nelson | Contra Costa County: subdivisions you needed to allow both. So part of cutting the red tape is actually looking to what is here and what we anticipate will be here in terms of businesses in terms of industries. And you know we have this kind of mantra with this, this overhaul of all these documents, and it's that


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Will Nelson | Contra Costa County: th. The good things should be easy and the bad things should be difficult. And so polluting a community should be hard, if not impossible. Bringing in a beneficial land use should be very easy. And so


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Will Nelson | Contra Costa County: you know that if maybe our our zoning being so


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Will Nelson | Contra Costa County: so outdated, you know, it might require a use permit to bring in something like a grocery store, whereas maybe that should just be some sort of review of the architecture and the site layout and and and the landscaping, and you get to come in.


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Will Nelson | Contra Costa County: So you know, that's the kind of thing that yeah, that that's a way that you can cut the red tape and then, you know, industry itself and job generating land uses. It's a big difference between what industries were back then and what they are today. And you know I always think of up near Sacramento. There's a Siemens plant where they build, you know, like light rail vehicles, commuter trains, and it's


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Will Nelson | Contra Costa County: really close to a single family neighborhood like across the street. And you know, there, there's nothing inherently wrong with that. Now, you know, maybe a toxic or hazardous waste facility right across the street. There's a problem with that. But if someone wants to come in with a facility that has good paying jobs that's environmentally conscious


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and can and can coexist well with its neighbors. Then then they should have an easier permitting process.


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Jared Asch: You're you're talking about flexible zoning, right? So looking at areas that doesn't matter if it's office or medical but


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Jared Asch: hazardous ways. That's a different story, right? Or creating a hotel or a supermarket versus what could just be office? Right?


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Will Nelson | Contra Costa County: Yeah. And and, Maureen, please jump in whenever you you know to have


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Maureen Toms, Contra Costa County: a balance a jobs housing balance in the area similar to to the way things used to be, where you could walk to the grocery store, or, you know, used to be able to just walk downstairs. You know. If you're in a mixed use downtown area. So that's important. We'd like to make those kinds of uses easier. Make it easier for


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Maureen Toms, Contra Costa County: You know other businesses to expand.


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Maureen Toms, Contra Costa County: As you know. I I'm sure you're aware that. You know, one of the big issues with somebody investing money is the time it takes to get those approvals.


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Maureen Toms, Contra Costa County: it's not. There's no return on that time that's invested there. And


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Maureen Toms, Contra Costa County: so we are working to align our our zoning with the new general plan to really allow those kinds of uses that we want to see to to promote them in our communities.


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Jared Asch: Don't make it too easy, though. I have clients that hire me to walk them through the process.


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Jared Asch: We yeah, and from an economic development side


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Jared Asch: having flexibility. It. It is important cause I do have clients that I bring into some cities, and it's it just depends on how they read it. And there's one example where it was like, well, here's a soil and water testing company. Do you view it as


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Jared Asch: an R&D pro service cause that would require a cup? Or do you view it as a research surface, if you view it as a research service.


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Jared Asch: Oh, it meets the broader zoning requirements. It's it's good to go. So


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Jared Asch: cities in the county that can have flexibility behind it and let Staff make a decision based on the intended goals.


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Jared Asch: I think is important. So I think, going. The route you're going does sound important for that long-term growth.


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Maureen Toms, Contra Costa County: Yeah, that's the intent of of the update of the general plan. And then the future update of the zoning code.


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Jared Asch: Yeah, how do you account for growth? Certainly in the 1,900 fortys, when the suburbs were starting? Wow! This looks very different. Even the vision for what contract could could be is very different


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Maureen Toms, Contra Costa County: the next 2040 years. How do you look ahead to


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Jared Asch: where this county is? It's likely gonna grow. How do you attract businesses? How do you attract more residents? How do you set all of this up in your thinking?


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Maureen Toms, Contra Costa County: Well, first of all we're gonna we're gonna take a look at what the trends are for the Bay area. That's gonna be number one, and a lot of that has been driven by what we need to plan for in our housing element that was just recently adopted.


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Maureen Toms, Contra Costa County: We've had to plan for over 7,800 units in unincorporated Contra Costa County, and that's the larger than any of the incorporated cities. So we've had to take a look at


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Maureen Toms, Contra Costa County: the different communities. And


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Maureen Toms, Contra Costa County: you know, they're gonna be mainly transportation. That's gonna be the biggest issue as far as where growth is. Gonna happen. Is it on a you know, a, a rail line, a a Bart rail line, is it on, you know, within the I 80 corridor the 6 80 corridor, or you know,


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Maureen Toms, Contra Costa County: or a state route? 4.


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Maureen Toms, Contra Costa County: You know, is their transportation. Is there existing resources? you know. And and then, of course, where are the jobs?


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Maureen Toms, Contra Costa County: you know the the commuting from East County?


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Maureen Toms, Contra Costa County: Because that grew so quickly in the eighties and nineties. It really jammed up Highway 4, and and resulted in having to


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Maureen Toms, Contra Costa County: really to expand the the freeway there. So we're looking at a whole number of things as far as where the growth will occur. But it's mainly transportation. It's going to be the driver.


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Jared Asch: So, talking through transportation. what is the role you mentioned? They have sent sales tax that goes to Ccta. The contra cost the transit authority, and we've had Tim Hale on a previous episode.


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Jared Asch: What is their role in this planning process. And what is the county's role?


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Will Nelson | Contra Costa County: So the general plan includes 2 elements related to this. So there's the transportation element. And then the growth management element and the growth management transportation element is a state mandated element, and the growth management element is mandated through measure. C, well, measure. J is the operative one. Now and then all of the guidance and everything that's been adopted to go with that.


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Will Nelson | Contra Costa County: So we


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Will Nelson | Contra Costa County: We have been in close contact with Ccta. You know the general plan what it includes. Of course, there's all the background information and context. There's all kinds of maps and graphics. But you know the the meat and potatoes are goals, policies, and actions goals. What we're trying to achieve policies, you know, the the sort of the statements to guide decision making. And then actions. These are the concrete things we're gonna do like amend the zoning code to


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Will Nelson | Contra Costa County: to achieve some outcome, for example. So when it comes to setting policy, we've been working with Ccta staff. Of course we have our own transportation planning staff in the county and public works. But then we've also been working with Ccta staff to


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Will Nelson | Contra Costa County: to write these policies and these goals to achieve what? What we, as the collective county are trying to achieve transportation wise over the next couple of decades. And then that that growth management element actually has to be consistent. Ccta has a a model of element and so we have to be consistent with that


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Will Nelson | Contra Costa County: and that helps keep everyone on the same page, kinda all moving, you know, collectively, in the right direction


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Jared Asch: in the general plan. You talked about it. It's gonna work a lot in unincorporated areas. But you have county resources such as the airport you can in field isn't roughly incorporated areas, but it's under that. How do you account for things like the airports in economic development and working with like go momentum station as an example. How do you tie


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Jared Asch: all of that together


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Jared Asch: with this general plan? Or or is that not part of the general plan, and that's a different thing. And you've got the the Northern waterfront project.


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Will Nelson | Contra Costa County: It's all in there, in in one location or another. Not, you know the Gomentum station we we tend to not name Use the actual names for a lot of things. Now, of course you can in Field Airport that is its name, and but go momentum it could. You know it's that now, Mo, who knows what things might be called in the future. But count the airports are county facilities. County owned and operated facilities. Right? So in our economic development section and in the transportation element we. We talk about them, and they're


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Will Nelson | Contra Costa County: their contributions and their importance to the the economy of the county, you know. I think there's some feeling that those are that the airports are actually under utilized and are enter these great economic engines that that could do more for us.


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The northern waterfront. There's a map of it in there with the green empowerment zone with the priority production areas in the county and the unincorporated county. So all these things are are discussed, and there's policy, language, and goals related to all of them. And you know, the county


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Will Nelson | Contra Costa County: is really really has a lot of assets. You know. We have a deep water channel, deep water shipping channel. We've got 2 major railroad lines going through up and Bnsf.


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Will Nelson | Contra Costa County: and we've got 2 airports. And so, you know, all the bones are there right to to for for a pretty strong economic engine, not. And and just our location right? We're kind of you know, we're we're in between Sacramento and San Francisco and and Silicon Valley. So there's really a lot that we have going for us in this county, economically, or, you know, from an economic development


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Will Nelson | Contra Costa County: perspective. And and we've been seeking input from all different


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Will Nelson | Contra Costa County: you know


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Will Nelson | Contra Costa County: many, many different organizations on how to refine and and get these economic development policies dialed in.


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Jared Asch: And so are there specific plans going in for, like the airport or that deep water port to do economic development? Or is


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Jared Asch: the general plan is the outline for that. And then we're gonna roll down into key processes.


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Will Nelson | Contra Costa County: Well, go ahead, Maureen.


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Maureen Toms, Contra Costa County: There's both you know, there there talked about in the general plan, but as far as for the airport, there's layers of plans that go on that where? you know, the airport staff are working with the F. Faa.


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Maureen Toms, Contra Costa County: and then we're working with the airport staff on land uses around the airport


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Maureen Toms, Contra Costa County: both to to move goods and services


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Maureen Toms, Contra Costa County: and to have complementary uses around the airports. And then we have staff that


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Maureen Toms, Contra Costa County: work with. the army corps of engineers on the Deep Water channel


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Maureen Toms, Contra Costa County: and


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Maureen Toms, Contra Costa County: And then with industry, our economic development, folks are work with the industrial uses and the other business uses along the northern waterfront, and and then also to mention that you know, as we're trying to grow business along the northern waterfront. We're we're working on policies to help promote that.


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Jared Asch: That's good. Okay, let's talk about sustainability as an element to the general plan, will. What are you looking at? From? You're you're talking everything in the word sustainability to protecting open space working with park districts


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Jared Asch: reducing our energy use more recycling. I mean, it's a broad topic. But what elements should we look for in the general plan? And what are particularly the goals of the county as it rolls out further.


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Will Nelson | Contra Costa County: Well, yeah, the sustainability is just so broad. Right? All those things you mentioned factor into it. And kind of going back to your question about where is growth gonna happen? Well, we have an urban limit line in this county that the voters put in place back in 1990 and and reaffirmed in 2,006, and it will be on the ballot again. In 2026. And so, you know, we we know


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Will Nelson | Contra Costa County: kind of what the extent of growth is gonna be. And that's part of sustainability. About 2 thirds of the county is really off limits to urban development.


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So that's sort of step one


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Will Nelson | Contra Costa County: and then within that, it's, you know, renewable energy. It's building efficiency. It is a transportation network that gets people where they wanna go efficiently. It's development patterns that allow people to


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Will Nelson | Contra Costa County: get where they're they need to go run their errands, get to their job, and maybe without having to use their car. You know, 0 emission or near 0 emission is is, you know. one of the main pillars of all this addressing sea level rise all these topics are


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Will Nelson | Contra Costa County: addressed in the, in the various elements of the general plan.


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Will Nelson | Contra Costa County: of course. Habitat conservation. I think a big one that I didn't. I didn't throw in there


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Will Nelson | Contra Costa County: alright. So tell us about habitat conservation. What are you? You're trying to save. What do we got here in Contra Costa County that we want to protect? Well, you know. There's a conservation element of the general plan. And


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Will Nelson | Contra Costa County: they say about roughly 2 thirds, the county is off limits to to urban development. That doesn't mean off limits to development. Of course, there are farms, and you know, all kinds of uses outside there have been limit line watersheds for our big reservoirs a lot of sensitive habitat. And so you know.


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Will Nelson | Contra Costa County: for example, there's policies where we really put concrete rules on wetlands and preserving them. And if you're going to


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Will Nelson | Contra Costa County: destroy a wetland for development. How much you know mitigation there has to be keeping development away from creeks and other riparian corridors, maintaining our agriculture and our agricultural economy.


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Will Nelson | Contra Costa County: you know. There, I think 500 or so policies in this new general plan. A couple, and and the conservation element is is one of the


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Will Nelson | Contra Costa County: biggest elements. I mean, you know, the most content. II think it might actually have the most content. And and this is one of the reasons why I mean that conservation just it. It has so many facets.


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Will Nelson | Contra Costa County: that that are linked to land use directly linked to land use? Right?


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Jared Asch: Yeah. And I know in March at Mount Diablo, which I think we each have a picture of in our backgrounds for the Youtube channel. There is an area. I think you get to it through Castle Rock but which is an East Bay parks, where there's 2 E, 2 families of eagles currently nesting and breeding. And so that whole area is off. And so just your point keeping the urban line keeping those areas free from development. Really.


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Jared Asch: it is essential. So you mentioned the urban limit line, and that coming up for a vote, I think you said 2026. So in 2, 2 and a half years. Why is that coming up? And who is running? That


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Jared Asch: does the organization mind


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Will Nelson | Contra Costa County: it? It's coming up because the last voter initiative measure. L, in 2,006


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Will Nelson | Contra Costa County: expires after 20 years. And the organization behind it really is


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Contra Costa County.


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Will Nelson | Contra Costa County: yeah. The all all the cities in the county. So 20 jurisdictions, 19 cities, and the and the county going back to Ccta and all the the model growth, management ordinance. And all these things they're linked together all of the 20 jurisdictions in the county are required to have an urban limit line


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Will Nelson | Contra Costa County:  back. When all this was set up or at least the the current version, I should say, 9, 16 of the 19 cities just adopted the county's line the county went, put a line, put it on the ballot. It was approved by the voters, and then, when the cities had to have theirs, then, 16 of the 19 said, well, we'll just. We'll we'll just adopt with the county adopted.


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Will Nelson | Contra Costa County: and then 3 adopted their own. That's fine. There's a there's a provision to do that. But so so you know, to answer the the basic question, it's it's on the it's back, because that's what the ballot measure said, and and you know it's the county that really kind of takes the lead in in adopting it.


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Jared Asch: That's good. And for our listeners in Solano County. They have an urban limit line big ballot initiative coming up in November. Theirs was, I believe, last or first adopted, at least in 1982, but they are being challenged by the California forever group


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Jared Asch: who would like to the new city out there in the eastern county where they want to develop not all of 60,000 acres but they own 60,000 acres, and they want to change the use from ag use.


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Jared Asch: Into development.


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Jared Asch: and the the current use in Solano County is limited to the 7 Cities lots


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Jared Asch: so it'll be interesting to see there's where that ends up going over the next couple of months, and what the recourse is there. But I know that's an urban limit line issue. That's very much on a lot of people's minds here in the East Bay, and and how it will have a major impact on things


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Maureen Toms, Contra Costa County: right? And our urban limit line really promotes infill development in our existing communities, whether it's in the cities or in the you know, urbanized, unincorporated areas. It's really that's where the growth should happen and not, you know, at the foothills here? You know, in the photos behind us.


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Jared Asch: yeah, is is the only what areas of the county are experiencing that that total sort of new expansion. It's really just out towards Oakley Brentwood and that side of these county most of the rest of the county is, is it? Infill?


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Maureen Toms, Contra Costa County: Most of it is infill. There's you know. There's some large lots in Discovery Bay.  I think there's some pressure down in


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Maureen Toms, Contra Costa County: camino tasahara area. But other areas in West County it's all infill.


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Maureen Toms, Contra Costa County: And a lot of our unincorporated areas are bounded by cities, either bounded by cities or bounded by some other geographical feature that you know precludes.


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Maureen Toms, Contra Costa County: You know expansion


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Jared Asch: right?


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Jared Asch: What are racial equity is a big piece


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Jared Asch: In this general plan. The county is also, recently hired to people to run a Dei department. Diversity, equity, inclusion, talk about what is going into this plan, and how you take a look at it. Will


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Will Nelson | Contra Costa County: this says I mentioned. There's a Statute Senate bill 1,000 passed a few years back that required jurisdictions to address environmental justice in their in their general plan.


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Will Nelson | Contra Costa County: And so it's one of the major themes of this plan. The very first element is a new one we created called the stronger communities element. And that's really where sort of the the 4 themes I mentioned earlier. That's kind of home base for them. Now, there's, you know, parts of the other elements that where where transportation or sustainability and all these other topics


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Will Nelson | Contra Costa County: appropriately go and environmental justice. But so the stronger communities element, we made it. The first element because we want to. Highlight and and environmental justice is is is kind of subject number one, and


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Will Nelson | Contra Costa County: really in a nutshell.


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Will Nelson | Contra Costa County: you know, planning does not have a very good history in the last century. It's really been used as a tool for discrimination in in in so many instances. I mean, in, you know, institutional racism. It's kind of the definition in a lot of ways it, you know, not not inherently, but because the way it's been implemented. And so


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Will Nelson | Contra Costa County: in the county Maureen mentioned it earlier. There are. They're called disadvantaged communities in the statute. Nobody really likes that term. So we call them impacted communities in the general plan. And they're really these communities that over time have suffered because of


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Will Nelson | Contra Costa County: I mean, any number of factors but their adjacency to you know, heavy industry that's polluting redlining discriminatory, lending practices. All these things, you know, that were so prevalent really, in that in a twenties, thirties, forties all the way. Really, I mean into the sixties. We, you know, we start, we have the Civil Rights Act, and and it becomes law really, that you can't do this. But that doesn't mean those things stopped then?


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Will Nelson | Contra Costa County: So for any number of factors.


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Will Nelson | Contra Costa County: these are communities that really just have suffered from pollution have not had the economic opportunity and advantages of other communities in the county. And so environmental justice is really about reversing all of this. All of all everything that's that's happened to these communities over the last century or so.


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Jared Asch: Marine anything to add there.


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Maureen Toms, Contra Costa County: no, I think that's that's correct. They we have some policies that are are gonna have us take a careful look at whatever kind of land uses are proposed in these communities. You know, it's all about helping these communities,


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Maureen Toms, Contra Costa County: you know, have the things they need to have, like grocery stores like walkable communities, and less of the things that you know impact. Somebody's health


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Jared Asch: makes sense. So


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Jared Asch: staying on that subject, and then I'll ask more broadly if you look forward to the plan results in


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Jared Asch: past passage. When you look back in 10 or 20 years to sort of view. Hey? We were successful. We did lay the framework in this related to that equity.


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Jared Asch: What would you see, as a success. How would you look back and say, yes, we we achieved our goal.


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Maureen Toms, Contra Costa County: I would say.


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Maureen Toms, Contra Costa County: having a community where you know, the residents feel comfortable, safe


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Maureen Toms, Contra Costa County: walking in their community because they have sidewalks. They have good lighting. They have places to walk to parks. You know. Retail grocery stores. Schools nearby. I think that's the the one thing or you know, probably the the highlighted


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Maureen Toms, Contra Costa County: thing would be a mix of uses that, you know, increase the quality of life for your community.


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Will Nelson | Contra Costa County: I would add to that also that people were.


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Will Nelson | Contra Costa County: you know, included in the processes, because that's really part of the reason that all this happened is that people were


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Will Nelson | Contra Costa County: barred from being part of the decisions. And you know, it's just to be honest, it it's it's a lot harder if if you're working 2 jobs and you're struggling to make ends meet. Your priority when you come overnight probably is not going to a planning commission meeting to talk about what is happening down the street, or, you know, in nearby, in your community that's gonna affect you, and and some people do have the


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privilege of of doing that. And so a lot of the


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Will Nelson | Contra Costa County: there, there, there's a a a section in the stronger communities element that is dedicated to community engagement. And it's, it's, you know, getting out in the community talking to people who have traditionally not had a voice in these decisions.


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Will Nelson | Contra Costa County: Getting things out you know, in more languages. Yeah, having maybe different meeting times. Instead of you know that where where people might be more able to attend so, in addition to all the things Maureen said that are th, they're kind of the physical changes or manifestations of all this. I think also, where the community members were part of it all, and feel heard and and and their voices are actually reflected in in, in.


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Will Nelson | Contra Costa County: or what what happened. You know how development proceeded, actually reflects what what people there had to say


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Will Nelson | Contra Costa County: will do. You want to mention the number of community meetings that we've held. Well, the running tally it's somewhere over a hundred 40 total meetings now that we count. And so


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Will Nelson | Contra Costa County: you, we have them in different kind of buckets. But when we talk about actual community meetings, open houses, things like that


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Will Nelson | Contra Costa County: it's it's over 50 of those. And we weighted them more toward those impacted communities. And we've had more meetings in in North Richmond and Baypointe, for example, than than some other communities, and because we knew that it was going to.


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Will Nelson | Contra Costa County: there would have to be more opportunities there, and and to go face to face with people and speak with them and and see you know what was happening. But we we've met with, I wanna say, around 30 different or made presentations to around 30 different community organizations now. And I shouldn't even say community organization. Some of it ranges from the Western States Petroleum Association down to local historic societies. You know, and everyone in between. And then, of course, there's all the formal meetings of


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Will Nelson | Contra Costa County: the Border Supervisors Planning Commission, you know, Sustainability Commission that. The county that the county you know, that's part of county government where people have had the opportunity to come and speak.


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Maureen Toms, Contra Costa County: Yeah. And I would just add that you know, during the pandemic that really through us curve ball as far as how we're gonna continue to have these community meetings. But we found one of our most successful meetings was a Zoom Meeting that we had with the community of Canyon


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Maureen Toms, Contra Costa County: and I don't. I think it's been a very, very long time till we, you know, since we've been able to engage the residents of that community and it. It's it's a really, it was a really memorable meeting that we had because of the participation that we had where people did not have to. You know, arrange for childcare and come to, you know, a central location. Everybody we met, everyone in their homes.


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Maureen Toms, Contra Costa County: and and that was, you know, that was a real benefit that we we've been able to do that as well.


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Jared Asch: Yeah, I understand. I'm a father of 3 girls currently between 4 and 9. And


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Jared Asch: I'm current chair of the Ccta Citizen Advisory Committee, and we meet on a Wednesday night from 6 to 8, 8, 30 depending how many questions people ask, and


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Jared Asch: we only went back in January for the first time in person, and it's made bedtime just a lot harder at home. It's a night where I'm just now not home. Instead of I could fully participate on the zoom, and it was just harder. And II live 15 min away. I'm not the one coming in from East County or West County, where it's a lot harder to get to. And that that changes who could serve on these committees. How you participate in public hearings.


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Unfortunately, you know, a lot of cities have gone away with zoom participation due to


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Jared Asch: Let's just call them circumstances on it. We we have that, I think on. Episode 7. If people wanna listen to to more of those. But


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Jared Asch: I get that, it's not easy to engage people of all different walks of life at different times of day and everything. So I appreciate how hard that is.


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Jared Asch:  So


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Jared Asch: if people want to comment on this and get engaged before it's too late, how do they participate in that process?


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Maureen Toms, Contra Costa County: Well, first of all, we do have


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Maureen Toms, Contra Costa County: all of our documents and reviews of all of the meetings that we've had thus far on a website called Envision Contra Costa, 2040.org. There's a whole history of of this entire process. You know, there's you know, I would suggest that people go to that website and take a look. We have some documents that are recaps. Just a summary


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Maureen Toms, Contra Costa County: of what the proposal is, and then


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Maureen Toms, Contra Costa County: We have.


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Maureen Toms, Contra Costa County: we'll be taking public comment on the adequacy of the environmental impact report and the General plan itself. And the climate Action plan, which is coming along at the same time we're going to be taking those comments until April eighth.


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Maureen Toms, Contra Costa County: There's also a public hearing with ours county zoning administrator next Monday.


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Maureen Toms, Contra Costa County:  so so we'll be taking comments that way.


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Maureen Toms, Contra Costa County: People can make comments online.


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Maureen Toms, Contra Costa County: on their website. They can write us, they can email us, what else will.


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Will Nelson | Contra Costa County: Yeah. There's gonna be a webinar on the 20 sixth of March.


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Will Nelson | Contra Costa County: Their supervisor, Glover, is having his journal plan open house on coming up on the fourteenth and then the website is just


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Will Nelson | Contra Costa County: it. It's the real resource as Maureen mentioned, we can be emailed through there. But the documents themselves, the general plan and the climate Action plan. There are versions. There's an online tool that you can use to put your comments actually directly into the documents, and then we're gonna get all those. So you could go to page 200


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Will Nelson | Contra Costa County: 12. And you know, say, I don't. I think this policy right here should say this instead, or this isn't correct on this map or so, it's it's really accessible


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Will Nelson | Contra Costa County: in that way.


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Jared Asch: That's kind of cool if you could insert it right in. And instead of you, staff reading it in all these different context, as as people get feedback, it's right there, and you know where it is, and it's searchable for for both you and the commenter.


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Jared Asch: That's great, and we'll put the link to the the plan, update and envision Contra Costa into the show notes for everybody.


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Jared Asch: What else should we be asking? What else do you want to tell people as you go through this process?


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Maureen Toms, Contra Costa County: Well, I think, basically, is that


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Maureen Toms, Contra Costa County: this document is a culmination of all of the public input that we've heard so far. So, you know, public input is important. We're listening right now.


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Maureen Toms, Contra Costa County: we have some very interesting profiles that we didn't have in the previous general plan. And that's you know, a community profile for each of the unincorporated communities that were really basically drafted. As a result of our community meetings.


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Maureen Toms, Contra Costa County: we really try to to to customize. The document as much as possible


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Maureen Toms, Contra Costa County: for these communities.


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Will Nelson | Contra Costa County: Yeah, II would add, you know, on on the front page of the website. It says, what should contra cost to county be like when our kids grow up? Let's plan for the future together, and I think part of the take home is


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Will Nelson | Contra Costa County: is, think about exactly that. I mean, what should this place be like? 10 or 20 years from now, when your 10 year old is your 30 year old, should there be a place for them to live? Should there be a place for them to work. Should your grandkids have parks that are accessible to them? And so, you know, it's very easy to just read the general plan and think of it in terms of 2024. But it's really the plan, for


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Will Nelson | Contra Costa County: in the next 2 decades, and and so getting out of the the tendency to think about now and and and think about the future is, I think, a lot of what


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Will Nelson | Contra Costa County: II think I think it's something just an idea I would like to put out there, but that I think people don't typically think about when they're thinking about planning.


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Jared Asch: I think that was a great way to vision it right?


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Jared Asch: What is your life? What are your kids, your friends? Where does everybody look like? And where will they be in in 20 years and close your eyes and do that. And I think that's that's a good, powerful image before we head out. Go through the process again. So April eighth, you're getting you're finishing public comments. What's the approval process to getting this adopted?


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Maureen Toms, Contra Costa County: Sure we are. We need to respond to all of the comments that people give us on the draft dri, and then


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Maureen Toms, Contra Costa County: our responses to those comments will be accumulated into a final. the final Eir responses to comments that whole package, the Dr.


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Maureen Toms, Contra Costa County: general plan, the draft Eir and the final Eir will then go to the planning commission


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Maureen Toms, Contra Costa County: for their consideration.


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Maureen Toms, Contra Costa County: And then once they make a recommendation that will go to the Board of Supervisors for their consideration. And adoption.


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And


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Maureen Toms, Contra Costa County: you know, basically, yeah, we've had a number of meetings. We're trying to wrap those up during the public


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Maureen Toms, Contra Costa County: comment period so that that might help some groups, individuals frame their comments. You know, if they have a better understanding of what the document actually entails.


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Maureen Toms, Contra Costa County: so April eighth is when we're accepting comments until and then it's gonna take us a good


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Maureen Toms, Contra Costa County: 6, 8 weeks or so until we have a final er out and ready to go to the next step, which is the planning commission.


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Maureen Toms, Contra Costa County: And I would also note that we're also considering the Climate Action plan. That's some other folks from the Department of Conservation and Development that are are driving that process as well, and they have a number of meetings meeting forums that they are attending. And you know that the public is welcome to attend as well.


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Jared Asch: Great. That is helpful information. I think this has been fascinating to learn really like


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Jared Asch: what goes into this will spend more than 5 years of his life living and breathing this document and putting it together and taking input from the public


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Jared Asch: which is not necessarily easy to do so will be interesting to see where you go. What's what's your next project is after this.


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Jared Asch: So I appreciate Will Nelson and Maureen Tom. Thanks for sharing with us, and maybe we'll have you on in in a couple of months once. Once this is implemented to talk about the changes that are starting to take place in the county.


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Maureen Toms, Contra Costa County: Thank you, Jared. We're happy to join you.


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Will Nelson | Contra Costa County: Yeah, thank you, Jared.




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